Quotes and Comments


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Friday, June 16, 2006

"The object and practice of Liberty lies in the limitation of Governmental power." General Douglas MacArthur

Whatever else he may have been, MacArthur was a true American. He speaks more like the founding fathers than anyone else in the 20th Century.

"Few Men desire Liberty; most Men only wish for a just master." Sallust

This is a from an ancient Roman Historian from the time of the fall of the Roman Republic. His words express one reason for the fragility of Free Republics. America's founders were very conscious of this weakness and often expressed fears that their Republic would fall to tyranny as Rome's had, such fears are at the root of the concepts of limited government and checks and balances.

"The argument for Liberty is not an argument against organization, which is one of the most powerful tools human reasoning can employ, but an argument against all exclusive, privilege, monopolistic organization, against the use of coercion to prevent others from doing better." F. A. Hayek

Hayek was an Austrian economist contemporary with Keynes, to me he is more rational and realistic than Keynes, not to mention more easily understandable on most concepts. Those who love Liberty should stand watch against privileges granted by government. In my opinion modern American laws in most areas that deal with large sums of money could use a good examination by virtuous elected representatives.

"It is seldom that any Liberty is lost all at once." David Hugh

Many of America's founding fathers expressed the same sentiment as Hugh. They often expressed fears that the Liberty won in the Revolution would be eaten away slowly by bad precedents and interpretations. Were they right?

"The true danger is when Liberty is nibbled away, for expedients and by parts.... The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men do nothing." Edmund Burke

Classic Whig rhetoric along the same lines as the above. Burke was an English Whig with political views very similar to his American contemporaries (i.e. the founding fathers).

"The God that gave us life, gave us Liberty at the same time; the hand of force may destroy, but it cannot disjoin them." Thomas Jefferson

Jefferson is saying basically "Don't tread on me". You can kill a free man who fights for freedom, but he dies free.

"The tree of Liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of Patriots and Tyrants." Thomas Jefferson

This is a somewhat disturbing quote from Jefferson at firat glance, but coupled with the above, and remembering that Jefferson is from the time of the American Revolution, it gains context. Those who have freedom fought for it, and to maintain it may have to fight again.

"Of Liberty I would say that, in the whole plenitude of its existence, is unobstructed action according to our will. But Rightful Liberty is within limits drawn around us by the Equal Rights of others. And I do not add ‘within the limits of the law’, because the law is often but the Tyrants-will, and always so when it violates the Rights of an individual." Thomas Jefferson

Here Jefferson again shows his brilliant grasp of reality. Liberty has to have reasonable limits, but within these limits men should be unfettered by fear of the gaovernment's power, and when the government makes bad laws free men have a responsiblity to stand up for their rights.

"I would rather be exposed to the inconvenience attending too much Liberty than those attending too small degree of it." Thomas Jefferson

For the first century and more of American government, the Legislatures and the Courts almost always attempted to err on the side of freedom, allowing free men to live their own lives and make their own mistakes rather than risk giving the government too much authority. This trend seems to be at an end in many ways today, but the worthy precedents of the past still have significant force in American Law.

"A government big enough to supply you with everything you need is a government big enough to take away everything that you have.... The course of history shows that as the government grows, liberty decreases." Thomas Jefferson

Jefferson was a genius. This is so obviously a true statement of an observable force spanning human history that I cannot add or detract from Jefferson's words.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Thomas Jefferson once said: "The natural progress of things is for government to gain ground and for liberty to yield."In this way he both, voiced his perfect understanding of the permanent tension between power and liberty, and predicted the future.

Jefferson also said: "Whenever a man cast a longing eye on public office, a rot begins in his conduct."
This comment comes from his deep belief in what he would have called "republican virtue" as a qualification for holding public office. I wonder how he would measure the glances cast by today's politicians with their million dollar campaigns, consecutive terms, lobbyist connections, etc.

"I disapprove of what you say, sir, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." - attributed to Voltaire
Whether Voltaire said this exactly or not, it is the sentiment upon which political discourse should be based in a free country, without the right to have an opinion and voice it, there can be no freedom. The politically correct crowd doubtless disagrees with me that my opinion can be valid if it is not their opinion, but then they are mostly mindless automatons who will believe whatever "everybody is saying" without the slightest effort to think it through for themselves.

"Liberty has never come from Government. It is always come from the subjects of Government. The history of Liberty is the history of resistance." Woodrow Wilson
Quite correct, too bad Wilson was probably among the last American Presidents to have such beliefs, for they are the beliefs upon which this nation was founded.

"America was established not to create wealth but to realize a vision, to realize an ideal-to discover and maintain liberty among men." Woodrow Wilson
I agree wholeheartedly again with President Wilson, too bad most Americans can't smoke a cigarette or drive to the store without big brother watching to see if they go outside or put on their seatbelt.

"I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me Liberty or give me death." Patrick Henry
Perhaps the greatest of the Anti-Federalists Henry deserves to be remembered among the greatest of America's founding fathers, for without the Bill of Rights which he so fervently demanded the decay of our freedom would be even greater, although this particular quote is from early in the Revolution.

"The basis of a democratic state is Liberty." Aristotle
Wow, even the Greeks knew that, how is it that we don't seem to get the picture these days? The most "liberal" states seem to have the most intrusive laws of all, and they seem to think the purpose of government is to boss the rest of us around "for our own good", rather than to secure the blessings of Liberty to an eternal posterity.

"A frequent reference to fundamental principles is absolutely necessary to preserve the blessings of Liberty, and keep a Government free." Benjamin Franklin
Like the genius that he was Ben Franklin reduced this to its simplest terms, and if you read the words of the men of his time, it becomes obvious what was fundamental to them. Preventing tyranny, securing Liberty, and not paying opressive taxes.

"If we truly cared about our children and future generations, instead of demagoging about them, we'd worry more about saving Liberty than saving Social Security." Walter Williams
Here is a rare example of a modern politician speaking like his earliest predecessors, refreshing, even though I'm not positive I know who this guy is, he is obviously one of the good guys.

"Without Liberty, Law loses its nature and its name, and becomes oppression. Without Law, Liberty also loses its nature and its name, and becomes licentiousness." James Wilson
I'd have to look it up, but it sticks in my mind that this guy was an Anti-Federalist from New York, even to guys like me who believe the Anti-federalists were among the greatest of Americans for getting us a Bill of Rights, the way history is taught makes their names so obscure that you forget them even after doing extensive reading about them.

Over the years, I have collected a large number of quotations to a file I keep on my hard drive. My plan for this page is to paste them all here, and over time write a little bit of why I think the person quoted said what they said, and what I think it meant to them, and means for us today. Naturally, these will be my own interpretations with which others may or may not agree. These will probably be somewhat controversial, as many of my favorite quotations are from political men of the past; politics is always controversial, and politics in a historical context can be even more controversial. Nonetheless, I think the wisdom of the great men of the past still has merit for us today, and perhaps contains far more of true wisdom than any of the contemporary liberal vs. conservative debate which so often devolves into an oversimplified game of side taking (i.e. us vs. them).

(Note: I was going to paste them all, but this blog software can't handle it, so I will just paste a few a day, and comment as I go, unfortunately, like on my other page, that will put my introduction on the bottom.)